Nana's Nuggets of Wisdom
A new, ongoing column starring the inimitable Marjorie Cohen. She is a lady with an insatiable appetite for life, a quick wit and brilliance with a lifetime of experience. Mostly, however, she is a Professional Cheerleader. Despite many successful careers, meaningful awards and accomplishments, she really feels her life boils down to that!
You see, Marjorie is all about Giving and Uplifting Others, and that is exactly what Nana's Nuggets of Wisdom will be. She will be Our Cheerleader!
Marjorie is a marvelously bright, spirited, and very accomplished lady. Just a few highlights from her life... Mother of four children and Grand Mama to five grandchildren (imagine, EVERY Friday she devotedly calls each one to converse about all things, especially happenings of the week); 25 years as a Million Dollar Real Estate Agent and 40 years as Executive Director/ Volunteer of the non- profit, Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF). The teeny country of Israel has always needed to spend an inordinate amount of money on defense, so critical needs, such as medical research, fall short. Marjorie is incredibly grateful for her LONG involvement with a fund that has spawned Nobel Prize winners and much cutting edge/breakthrough life-saving research. To all who support ICRF, Marjorie is affectionately called, “The Mother Ship of ICRF.” Unfailingly, every day she calls the New York office to check in and cheer them on. She says.” I hope that my efforts have in some way benefitted all mankind.”
May 6, 2020:
Nana's Nugget #1
Not surprisingly, one of Marjorie's heroes is a First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who served for four terms. She explains, “Eleanor Roosevelt was a doer, a remarkable lady who wasn’t afraid to express her opinion whether she was performing her role as a diplomat or an activist. In the mid 1900’s, such a fiercely independent and courageous woman was certainly extraordinary.”
Towards the end of our interview, she proclaimed very proudly, “You know what MOST defines me? I am a Professional Cheerleader!” Despite many successful careers, meaningful awards and accomplishments, she really feels her life boils down to that! You see, Marjorie is all about Giving and Lifting- Up Others.
Can you imagine?! Every week, besides calling each family member, she makes sure to express gratitude to those who help make her life a little easier; for example, she greets the gentleman who tends her pool with green apples, and there are similar such gifts for her post man and gardener.
Like Eleanor Roosevelt, her mother (pictured below) possessed an indomitable spirit and a fierce belief that one should never lose one’s identity, no matter what comes along because that is our touchstone. She adds that her mother had a will of steel and continually impressed upon her children that “the most important thing you have is your name, your reputation. It follows you always. Be sure to keep it golden.” Marjorie continues, “It is these qualities that contributed so largely to my mother’s success as a business woman. She and my father owned four drugstores and a women’s clothing store that still exists today after more than 65 years!”
June 27, 2020:
Nana's Nugget #2
The last few months have been very difficult for everyone and we’re all trying to deal with it. We’re involved with a virus as well as people who are protesting, looting and getting killed. It’s a lot. Perhaps you, too, have felt the heaviness this upheaval has sparked.
So I am compelled to share an AMAZING event that happened at my home just a few days ago. As a preface, for the past four and a half years here at my house in Westlake Village, CA, we have been blessed by having ducks come and nest right by our pool under a windmill. This miracle of life has resulted in 78 ducklings born here!
So, on Friday, I wake up to see that there are ten ducklings paddling away in the pool with Mama, a Mallard duck, leading the way. They’re swimming back and forth at about 100 mph. The idea is for them to gain enough strength to get onto my daughter’s old headboard that’s placed in the shallow end, for the express purpose of helping the ducks exit the pool.
They sit and rest for a couple of hours before making the trek out of the pool and out the front gate to find the nearest lake in Westlake! We don’t let anyone feed the ducks or bother them in any way. We let Mother Nature and their natural instincts guide the way. This represents a lot, and this was the largest litter of ducklings we’ve ever had! I look at these ducks and feel blessed that the mother duck felt comfortable enough to have her babies born here.
My takeaway is that with all of the uncertainty of the virus and its effects on our lives, as well as the civil unrest, this miraculous event reminds us of the power of Mother Nature. She is the one force we can trust.
I take this as a great sign that everything will come back to normal or something that we can understand and call the truth. So, I made 100 calls to everyone I know telling them that the ducks are here and that Mother Nature is truly stronger than any of us and is a true thing! May it give us hope that all will be okay as we rebalance and strive to be the best we can be.
September 23, 2020:
Nana's Nugget #3
I have been struggling to figure out why my Oak China Cabinet has been “speaking” to me lately. Is it because of its beauty and strength? Imagine! This magnificent cabinet represents six generations spanning over 115 years and helps to keep our big family connected. Such an important thing! I wish long family connections for you, too. Our enduring cabinet has been through a lot in those years and survived it all. Its strength and endurance fill me with confidence that we, too, will survive, in light of all that’s going on today.
You see, remarkably, the Oak China Cabinet is as pristine as the day it was purchased by my grandparents Don and Ida KIpperman at an estate sale in Trenton, NJ, in 1903. It lived with them until they died and then it made its journey across the country to my parents’ home in Coronado, CA. When my parents died, the cabinet again moved to my sister’s home where it remained for another 15 years. This past January it finally came to me in Westlake, CA.
Perhaps it commands my attention because when I look upon it, it floods me with very happy memories. I go right back to our dining room in Coronado, where I was raised. I begin to think of so many family gatherings that were so full of laughter, delicious food, story-telling, and much more. It amazes me that even after so many years, it still fills me with happiness and peace. Gazing at it, suddenly my world is expanded. It jogs my stored bank of memories and that lightens my heart.
As we are feeling a little too “tossed about” these days… the virus, the politics, the violence… all this can feel strange, confusing, and unsettling, too. Somehow the cabinet with its strength and the memories it stirs provide me with a sense of grounding. It reminds me that we are a part of something greater than ourselves. That are ever-evolving stories are partially the creation of our precious connections with those we love and care about, those who love and care about us too. It reminds us, we are not alone. It is exactly this that helps to protect us during more tumultuous times.
My family also cultivated a newsletter. My beloved sister, Joan, from whom I inherited the cabinet last January, was one who made it happen. It began many years ago when one of my cousins was in Viet Nam and we wanted to keep him in touch with us. Joan blessedly sent it every two months and we all loved every letter.
Today’s lives are consumed with so many disposables and in- the- moment attention grabbers like the constant bombardment of electronic messages pouring into our inboxes. My wish for you is to do your best to cultivate things in your lives that will endure, provide strength, and spark joy and contentment.
These are a few of our family’s treasures. My deep hope is that our story may inspire you to fiercely grow your family/friend experiences that will expand your bank of memories so it, too, may be a source of deep positive, happy emotions. May the Oak China Cabinet remind us to stand tall because we are strong and not alone.
My best to you, “Nana”
November 24, 2020:
Nana's Nugget #4
What do you do? Thanksgiving is right around the corner and there is water running into the dining room! A mighty mess, indeed! We had the best intentions to fix it before the big day, but, of course, like so many such things, it turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. Everyone wanted to cancel our annual Thanksgiving celebration because it wasn’t to be at all as it had been for so many years. Perhaps you can imagine what MY response was?!!
“Oh, no! We aren’t going to cancel Thanksgiving! We’ll simply do something different,” I declared emphatically. We learned that the spirit of Thanksgiving with family and friends getting together is what is most important. I am especially reminded of this unusual celebration as we all gather together this year, in this year of Covid 19. It may not be as always, but celebrate we must because what’s most important is being with the ones we love. Sometimes the unexpected happens, and that is exactly when we need to roll up our sleeves and get creative.
Recalling some 20 years ago, The Year of the Leak, we created something different. We used boxes! We put boxes together with tablecloths on them, some four stories high, and trays on top of the table cloths... We even placed ﬂower arrangements atop some of the boxes. On one tray we put the turkey, another stufﬁng, other vegetables, and so on. When people walked in they said, “What is this?” I said, “This is different guys!”
We all wound up eating in the living room, but somehow it was charming. We enjoyed each other and laughed about it. Some said, “Leave it up for next year!” I said, “No way!” But it brought out a wonderful evening and we were thankful that we were creative and determined enough to not let this most beautiful of holidays escape us. To this day, family members recall that special evening and they say, “We were there at the Thanksgiving dinner when we didn’t even know what was happening.”
Things in life are not always the way we’re used to having it, but perhaps this challenging year might spark new ways, maybe even BETTER ways of doing things. Try to embrace... difference. You never know what your creative selves will imagine. Please enjoy one another. Get to the heart of life… being together and drawing support, love, and conﬁdence from one another. After all, our families come first. Everything else is secondary.
So, dear readers, I wish YOU much joy, health, and gratitude for our many, many blessings and HEARTIEST HAPPY THANKSGIVING wishes, too! .. Nana
March 22, 2021:
Nana's Nugget #5
To those just getting to know dearly beloved Marjorie Cohen, aka NANA, it’s with so much sadness and disbelief, too, that this is our last Nana’s Nuggets. You see, Marjorie suddenly, but peacefully, passed away a short time ago due to complications from Covid 19.
I am forever grateful to have come to know her in a more personal way over this past year as we hunkered down for The Virus. Perhaps it was one of those “silver linings.” Desperate to get outside and move, I did walk/talk with Marjorie discussing topics for Nana’s Nuggets of Wisdom. Please know it brought her the greatest joy to hear her stories so resonated with you.
Perhaps it is most appropriate that her last entry, recorded some months before her passing, is about her Grandmother Ida Kipperman, the original Nana. Marjorie admired her greatly and embodied so many of her strengths. Nana Ida, as we’ll call her here, was also a “force of nature.”
With such admiration, Marjorie recounts how Nana Ida, in her 80’s, every day plunged into the Atlantic Ocean at 6:00 AM to do a daily swim, along with other family members. By the way, this is with five daughters and five sons. Nana Ida understood the utmost importance of “stealing” just a little time for herself. In so doing, she could make her best efforts to be mentally and physically available for her big family and thriving retail business, still in existence today on Coronado Island, MB Brown.
She also recounts how Ida would sometimes hop on a bus in Trenton, NJ, where she lived, and go to the state mental hospital to volunteer her time. They absolutely loved her there. When she left, she would thank G-d for her family with all its confusion and noise. That space she “stole” for herself, not only uplifted the children at the hospital but instantly, put her abundant "gifts" right into perspective, however demanding her children may be.
She was also inviolate about weekly Friday night Shabbat dinner. All of her children and their children’s children gathered together to rejoice in life and the rich blessings of family. Eventually, she moved from the East and came to live with Marjorie’s family, the Browns, in Coronado. Marjorie laughed as she recalled Ida’s commanding words one Shabbat evening, “Marjorie, wait one minute, I want you to come here in the kitchen.” There was no resisting her, even as Marjorie would plead, “But Nana, I can’t! I am already running late!” There was always the same response, “You’re going to come in and light the candles with me and say the prayers!” Then she would regale Marjorie with what every week she wished for all her loved ones – see below.
Remarkably, Marjorie abided by Nana Ida’s wisdom, and, like clockwork, she was indefatigable about calling each of HER grandchildren every week forging lifelong ties with them as she would repeat the wishes she had heard each week when she was young. In addition, If you were one of Marjorie’s four children, you immediately recalled that each Friday night, no matter how many young friends happened to be in their sprawling West Los Angeles home house at the time if it was Shabbat dinner, they ALL were expected for dinner. Marjorie thrived on people's energy. Their house was always a whirl of activity.
May Nana’s Nuggets serve to inspire, and communicate her over-riding love of life. Despite her rich and very accomplished life, it was the importance of FAMILY, FRIENDS, and STAYING CONNECTED that mattered most. It is these bonds that support, no matter what. She understood intuitively that each day of life is precious and not ever to be squandered. She hoped too, as she shared about Nana Ida, that you, no matter how busy your life, please “steal’ a few minutes for yourself. They are golden. It will mean “the world” to you and your loved ones.
.... Dearest Marjorie... You gave us everything you had, never holding back. May your light always shine ever so brightly. With G-d, you are now sprinkling your unique kind of love across the heavens.
We thank our daughter, Rachael, for making Nana’s Nuggets come to life. Due to failing eyesight, Marjorie was unable to use the computer. So Rachael would record her messages. Indeed, Nana’s Nuggets was a multi-step, complete labor of love.
*Nana Ida’s Weekly Wishes… Walk into the light and into the goodness of G-d. Walk with honor and ask for G-d’s forgiveness for any sin committed. Have great health, happiness, love, work, wisdom, peace of mind, strength, and endurance! And no matter what comes along, may you always go from strength to strength.